Williams Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that causes mental deficits, but also a hypersocial personality. People with Williams Syndrome don’t just love to interact with other socially — they seemingly have no social fear at all, and they’ll talk to just about anyone, happy, sad, angry, black, white, etc. And now a study shows that apparently they’re the only humans who don’t form racial stereotypes. The rest of us, no matter how anti-racist we are, can’t entirely bypass our evolved responses to people we perceive as belonging to a different group than us. Neurophilosophy:
Earlier work by the same group of researchers has shown that hypersociability and lack of social fear in individuals with WS is associated with reduced activity in the amygdala in response to social threats, and to reduced interactions between the amygdala and fusiforn face area (FFA). The amygdala is well known to be involved in fear, and the FFA, as its name suggests, responds selectively to faces. These two structures, together with the prefrontal cortex, are normally thought to encode race information, and it has been shown increased FFA activation is associated with viewing same-race faces.
All of this suggests that the apparent lack of racial bias in children with WS occurs because of reduced activity in the amygdala and FFA and impaired interactions between the two, which causes the threat signal normally elicited by someone from a different social group to be diminished.